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Leverage Seven Top Motivators to Improve Physician Engagement

December 17, 2015


As hospitals think about physician recruitment, retention and engagement they need to consider what actually motivates physicians. Whether you are trying to:

  • Attract physician candidates,
  • Build a program that will retain physicians and give them the best chance at career satisfaction, or
  • Engage independent physicians in your quality and cost initiatives

You need to identify what motivates each individual physician. The reality is that employment does not ensure alignment and independent medical staff won’t engage unless there is something in it for them. This isn’t selfishness. It’s just human nature. Why would a physician take the time to develop a new, more-cost effective care delivery model? Well, you could make it an obligation in the employment agreement, but contractual obligations are the lowest form of motivation.healthcare 167202058

Why does any physician engage with a project of any sort and what will motivate him or her to grow and develop? Hospitals often fail to dig deep enough in this regard, and propose something that doesn’t match the motivations of the physician. This list is not exhaustive, but having interviewed over 1,000 physicians in these situations, we can categorize the common motivators:

  • Esteem – Some physicians want to participate in a program or take a leadership position because of the professional recognition it may provide.
  • Patient Outcomes – Physicians may be motivated by the opportunity to improve the quality of patient care.
  • Innovation – Some value the opportunity to create something new – like a new care delivery model or program – or to be a change agent in an era of healthcare reform.
  • Control – Physicians are often frustrated by a growing lack of control over their world. Some projects can give them a “seat at the table” and a role in determining the future of the organization, and their own career.
  • Finances – Physicians are in the business of practicing medicine. Sometimes, a primary concern is creating or protecting a revenue stream.
  • Lifestyle/Burden – Some are simply looking for anything that alleviates their daily frustrations, be it organizational inefficiency or the burden of being on call or working longer hours than they believe is really necessary to meet their goals.
  • Career Development – Developing leadership skills or learning about non-clinical operational topics will appeal to physicians who are thinking about their own career path.

Examine your situation. What are you trying to accomplish? What are your goals? Now what are the goals of the physicians and what might motivate them? Your need to align these variables.

This approach goes hand-in-hand with the foundational work of defining new behavioral competencies (leadership, collaboration, business acumen, etc.) that you need in your physicians, and then implementing ways to identify and develop these critical traits.

Learn more about physician hiring by downloading our Whitepaper on Assessing Physician Fit:



Bryan Warren Bryan Warren was the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at PSI. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.